Russia says EU, NATO ready to start ground operation in Libya
Russia’s envoy to NATO says that the European Union is ready to send up to 1,500 soldiers to conduct a ground operation in Libya, albeit this will be called support of the humanitarian mission.
Dmitry Rogozin told Russian news agencies on Thursday that the European Union had prepared an operation to enforce the security of the humanitarian mission and at present there were only some logistical details to be fixed. Rogozin said that the EU will send about 1,500 people divided into tactical groups and according to his information these will be soldiers from Germany and the Netherlands. The EU Council made the decision to start preparations for the humanitarian operation on April 1, but in order to turn the operation into the practical phase the union needs a request from the United Nations which has not yet been received. NATO was also considering ground operations in Libya despite the fact that the UN resolution on the situation in the country only allows an air blockade. At present, NATO is sending a civilian representative to the city of Benghazi to establish ties with the Libyan opposition forces. The Russian envoy said that such a move can be explained by ambitions more than practical reasons. “Sending the NATO civilian mission to Benghazi fully matches the ambitions stated in the alliance’s new strategic concept that reads that from now on NATO will be holding all-in-one operations without using any services from the European Union or other international organizations. NATO wants to show now that it is able to conduct universal work. Be a universal soldier, a nurse and a babysitter all in one,” Rogozin said. Dmitry Rogozin earlier warned that the international coalition could use the humanitarian operation as a disguise for a large-scale ground operation against Muammar Gaddafi’s troops. Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported earlier on Thursday that a diplomatic source had confirmed that NATO was sending a civilian representative with a small staff of aides to Benghazi in order to secure political contacts with the National Provisionary Council. The Russian diplomat said that the move fell within the framework of the Security Council resolution on Libya, supporting the protection of the civilian population. At the same time, the source pointed out that no mission had been sent to the official Tripoli and there were no such plans in NATO.